Step One: Developing, Testing, Using, and Understanding the Container

Additional Container Resources:

Clients Who Struggle to Visualize in EMDR Therapy and Flash Therapy
The Catcher’s Mitt Metaphor in Flash Therapy

Extended Step One Script: Develop a Container (Client Can Reuse Between Memories and Sessions) 

If Flash is a way to process traumatic information without distress, but there is distress in traumatic information, it is helpful to have a place for the distress to go that is external to the client’s nervous system.  This may sound bizarre, to separate activation from distress, but that’s what makes Flash effective.  If the distress and the calm scene are both in awareness, Flash will not work, or will work at a crawl and leave substantial debris.

The container in EMDR Therapy and Flash therapy have similarities and differences.  They are similar in that both are boxes that hold difficult stuff.  In EMDR Therapy, we may scoop residual distress up once at the end of a session, see it go into the container, close the door, and leave it there.  In this version of Flash, the container will be used every time we quickly check the memory and all distress will be routed directly into the container, much like a hot potato might be tossed into a casserole dish.  Since we may be checking the memory 30-45 times in an average Flash session, we need a new and empty container to come each time (we’ll talk about why in Step Five).  Note that we are working on the memory only one microslice of it at a time.  The whole memory is not containered, only the right now microslice.  They’re not telling you what they are containering, but if they did, it would be something like: “It’s the way he’s looking at me.”  “The feeling when he says a particular word.”  It is a single frame of the video that gets containered.  If the client plays the video, they have played too much.  If they are telling you what they are containering, they are activating too much. In Flash, the memory is purposefully pushed out of awareness, because all of awareness is needed for the calm scene.  And this all happens quickly, like handling a hot potato.

 The container can be a file folder, a box, a book, a chest, ceramic pots, or anything that works for the client.  The container is then “pushed or sent” far away from the client (ideally hundreds of miles away) to help get it out of direct focus and awareness.  In Step One, we develop the container that we will use over and over.

 It is helpful to confirm that the container works by imagining putting something neutral in it when you are developing it, like an imaginary business card.  This allows us to test and troubleshoot the container safely.   “See the business card go in the container… does it feel like the business card is in the container?  Yes.  Imagine the container going far away until it is just a tiny dot on the horizon.

Let the client know that our goal is to process this memory with virtually no distress and that all distress will be immediately routed to the container.

Script: We are going to work one memory at a time and we are going to do this by not thinking about it or feeling anything about it.  We want to develop a container or a box that will hold whatever small parts of the memory we activate and keep it out of direct awareness.  What kind of container might be helpful?  It can be a file box, a safe, pottery with a lid, or anything that is able to hold something for just a little while.

Ask the client visualize to container… What color is it? What is it made of?  How does it close?

Can you imagine a blank skip of paper or a business card going into this container?  [pause] Can you see the container close?  [pause] Can you imagine pushing that container far away until it is just a tiny speck in the sky?  Does it feel like that container and its contents are far enough away for it to be out of your focus for just right now?  

Parts Language: Does this container work for all parts of you?  Are there parts of you that may need a different type of container or need to make modifications to this one?

The vast majority of clients are able to visualize a container.  If the client struggles to visualize, see the Four Blinks podcast episodes about problems visualizing for ways to outsource the visualization component of the container.
You can always use an actual container that is in the therapy office or in the client’s room through telehealth.

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